People that did a lot of tape trading or copying for others would compile lists of the tapes they had. Several clubs (like Anime Hasshin) had tape trading groups that would copy anime for anyone who would send blank VHS tape and return postage. There were always films or TV shows that were difficult to find - there are some movies from that era that I didn't see until years later. The whole process was jury-rigged and arbitrary, and fans were always coming and going from the fandom. Somebody would be really into anime in 1987 and then by 1990 they would have moved on to something else. The relationships between tape traders would vary widely; in a lot of the smaller areas, one fan would have access to a lot of tapes, and he'd wind up selling copies to the local fans, or charging a fee for making copies. In other cities this was frowned on.Fireminer wrote: ↑Fri Feb 08, 2019 7:25 am
So, VHS scarcity was not an important matter, right, but how to hook up with the right person who had a show you wanted? And how bad was the tape-exchanging culture hurt after anime titles started showing up at Blockbuster or Suncoast? (Also, do you remember approximately when did these stores started carrying anime titles? Before that, how did companies like AnimEigo or Manga Entertainment distribute their tapes?)
When AnimEigo and US Renditions started selling subtitled anime on VHS in the US, it didn't change things overnight. The retail prices for those VHS tapes were fairly high ($29.99, $39.99, etc) and a lot of fans would rather get something for the cost of a blank tape rather than pay retail ( just like today). Also, a lot of the popular fan titles didn't become available on US release home video right away, and titles that were brand new in Japan might take a while to make it over here, so there was still tape copying activity. And of course once fan subtitling got easier a lot of fan subtitling groups started working on popular shows that hadn't been released here, and those were distributed via VHS as well.
As far as retail distribution of anime VHS tapes goes, I will yield the floor to Steve Harrison or anyone else with retail experience...